Nithyananda ashram produces 88 students before child welfare panel

Accused of rights violations, the Bidadi ashram of self-styled godman Nithyananda Tuesday produced 88 of the 108 students registered with it and their parents before the Ramanagaram child welfare committee (CWC). The district officer of the CWC, Radha, was present.

The students from Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, the US, UK, Singapore and Australia were produced following a directive by the district authorities.

The district administration was recently asked by the women and child welfare department of the state government to rescue the children after a complaint that the ashram was violating rights.

Following notices issued by the administration, the ashram had written to the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR) expressing willingness to produce the children before it or the CWC.

Member Shivalingaiah said according to documents placed before the KSCPCR, 19 of the 108 children studying at the Bidadi ashram were transferred to other institutions or handed over to their parents.

"We have asked them to provide authentic documents for transfer of the 19 children and produce before the CWC on Tuesday a student other than the 88," he said.

Shivalingaiah said the CWC held a counselling session with the children and their parents.

"We found the children brilliant. But they are not receiving formal education. They (the ashram) do not have accreditation from any government agency, they do not follow the law of the land and do not have an authentic syllabus for the children," he said.

The CWC would submit a detailed report to the state government for further action, sources said.

The Karnataka government may be asked to approach governments of other states to verify details of the children and their parents.

"We have collected many documents regarding the children, their parents and their education system. They (ashram) claim they have accreditation from a Singapore system. We will verify all documents. We will have a meeting soon to decide action," Shivalingaiah said.

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